Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rerun: My Augustine Depression

From this time of year, last year. Still highly relevant ...

A couple of nights ago, I felt myself slide into what I call my Augustine of Hippo depression. Imagine waking up one fine day in 410 AD, only to discover that Alaric the Visigoth has sacked Rome, thereby launching the Dark Ages and making stupidity fashionable. That’s kind of what happened to me one bleak and miserable November evening of 2004 when I returned home thinking I had fired the President, only to discover the very opposite had occurred.

This couldn’t be happening, I could only think. Not in a civilized society.

Augustine’s resulting meditative funk led to “City of God,” mine to “Living Well With Depression and Bipolar Disorder.” Okay, I’m no Augustine - don’t make me any more depressed than I am.

What happened the other night was more of a mini-Augustine depression. I turned on the TV only to discover that the asshole Joe Lieberman had succeeded in forcing both the Senate majority and the Administration to roll over and play dead for him. Real universal healthcare was off the table. In its place was a government hand-out to the insurance industry masquerading as reform.

End of civilization, I decided.

I have a tendency to get carried away. Bear with me ...

This year, the Wilkins Ice Shelf (a whole friggin’ ice shelf!) up and collapsed on us. Earlier, the entire world economic system nearly did the same. What next? A killer comet named after Lieberman?

We know the Roman Empire was in a state of decline long before Alaric and his fellow barbarians dealt the coup de grace. In the third century, the Empire suffered an economic collapse from which it never recovered, resulting in profound changes that set the scene for anarchy, serfdom, and ignorance. Significantly, the middle classes all but disappeared. Thomas Cahill in “How the Irish Saved Civilization” even notes the poetry got bad. More important, as the end drew near, education had virtually vanished. The culture of stupid was fully locked in place.

It’s way too soon to tell whether today’s US equates to the Rome of the third century. Having said that, our culture of stupid is a major worry. Can you name three celebrity airheads with relationship difficulties? Easy. Can you name two Nobel Laureates this year besides Obama? Don’t worry. Neither can I.

A bad economy or a fragile environment is only a crisis if we place no value on the brain power we need to think our way through these situations. But we can't even figure out health care. We've ceded sovereignty to the idiots. Are we really that stupid? Now I’m starting to get worried ... 

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